Friday, 05 January 2007 20:52

Gerald Ford Dies

It is worth remembering that Gerald Ford's legacy also includes vetoing a bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act, reportedly at the urging of Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney and Antonin Scalia, writes John Kelin.

Gerald R. Ford, the thirty-eighth President of the United States and last surviving member of the Warren Commission, died the day after Christmas. He was 93 years old.

In announcing Ford's death, his widow Betty Ford said, "His life was filled with love of God, his family, and his country."

No cause of death was immediately given, but Ford had suffered a number of medical problems over the preceding year.

ford sworn in

Gerald Ford ascended to the Presidency in 1974 following the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. He ran for re-election in 1976 but was defeated by Jimmy Carter.

Ford was an undistinguished congressman from Michigan when Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the Presidential commission investigating the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. That commission, of course, concluded that Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, and that there was no conspiracy in the assassination.

Publicly, at least, Mr. Ford stood by that conclusion for the rest of his life, in spite of overwhelming evidence of conspiracy. In 1991 he said, "I reaffirm the two basic decisions of the Warren Commission are as valid today as they were then. Those were that Lee Harvey Oswald committed the assassination, and secondly, our commission found no evidence of a conspiracy, foreign or domestic...I don't think we have found any evidence to date that there was a conspiracy."

In 1997 the Assassination Records Review Board released materials showing that Ford personally altered the wording of some sections of the Warren Report, and in so doing strengthened its lone-assassin case. Probe magazine reported (October 1997, Vol. 4 No. 6) that then-Commissioner Ford edited a draft of the Report, changing the location of one of JFK's wounds. "By moving the point of entry from the back to the neck," Probe said, "Ford alters the trajectory of the bullet through Kennedy's body making the Commission's [lone assassin] thesis more tenable."

In 1966 Ford published a book called Portrait of the Assassin, ghostwritten by his assistant John R. Stiles. The book opened with an account of a top-secret Warren Commission meeting in January 1964, in which the Commission heard allegations that Lee Oswald was an FBI informant. "Ford quoted extensively but selectively from what he called 'discussions among members of the Commission on Monday, January 27,' 1964," Harold Weisberg wrote in Whitewash IV: JFK Assassination Transcript. "In other words, he published for personal profit excerpts from this TOP SECRET executive session of January 27, edited to his own liking and advantage and for his own dishonest political purposes."

Weisberg further asserted that Ford lied about this during his Senate confirmation hearings in 1973.

The early days of Ford's 895-day administration were touched by controversy when Ford pardoned Richard M. Nixon for all crimes he committed as President. According to conventional wisdom, this may have contributed to his failed re-election bid in 1976. In between the pardon and his defeat, two attempts were made on his life.

On December 27, 2006, CBS Evening News broadcast a videotaped interview with Ford dating back to 1984. CBS informed its viewers that Ford granted the interview with the stipulation it not be broadcast until after his death. In the excerpt CBS showed, Ford recalled reading a draft of his first speech as president, following Richard Nixon's resignation. "I read it and that phrase, 'the long national nightmare,' sort of jarred me. I said, 'Bob, we really ought not to use that. Let's not be too harsh.'" Speechwriter Bob Hartmann prevailed. Any other juicy tidbits from that interview? Not yet, and I'm not holding my breath.

It is worth remembering that Gerald Ford's legacy also includes vetoing a bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act, reportedly at the urging of Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney and Antonin Scalia.

Most initial news reports of Gerald Ford's death stressed that Ford was the nation's only unelected President, but those accounts failed to consider current president George W. Bush.

Click here to see a cartoon recalling Gerald Ford's editing skills.

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